Trends in North America’s Exports of Polyethylene

North America’s exports in 2015 versus 2014 were up by 10%-12% for LDPE and LLDPE, and by 32% for HDPE. Data through February 2016 indicates even higher percentage increases  compared with the prior year. Imports of all three grades into the region were small and declined in 2015.

Although the new shale gas based crackers and derivative plants are not scheduled to start up in the US until 2017 at earliest, higher polyethylene exports during 2015 and lower imports indicated the availability of excess capacity. North America (United States plus Canada) exported 1.1 million tons of LDPE, up 12%, 1.0 million tons of LLDPE, up 10%, and 1.9 million tons of HDPE, up 32%. Shipments of all three polymers increased to Latin America, Asia-Pacific, Western Europe and Africa. Exports abroad were from the US except for roughly 200,000 tons each of HDPE and LLDPE and 50,000 tons of LDPE shipped from Canada.

North America’s imports in 2015 also mainly entered the US and were less than 100,000 tons per grade, declining by 14% to 43% from the prior year.